May 01, 2017
Heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, there was no way the Eagles were going to fill all of their many holes, though they did add some players who should help bolster their depth.
Earlier today, we took a look at each of the Eagles' positions on offense, determining where they are strong, and where they still need help. Here we'll look at the defense.
Early in the offseason, the Eagles made the obvious move to release Connor Barwin. They then signed Chris Long in free agency and added Tennessee DE Derek Barnett with the 14th-overall pick. With Brandon Graham, Long, Barnett, and Vinny Curry, the Eagles will have a very good rotation of defensive ends, however, it will remain a need area as Long is aging and Curry is a potential cap casualty next offseason.
The Eagles have good starters in Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan, but their defensive tackle depth is questionable, at best. With Beau Allen on the shelf with a pectoral injury, the Eagles depth consists of 2016 UDFA Destiny Vaeao, 2017 sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls, and 2016 practice squadder Aziz Shittu.
The Eagles will have to hope Cox and Jernigan can stay healthy. They have a lot of snaps in their future.
The Eagles remain highly likely to move on from Mychal Kendricks, even after trade talks with the San Francisco 49ers did not result in a deal:
Source: 49ers discussed a trade for Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks a month ago. Deal unlikely now that Reuben Foster is in SF— Kevin Jones (@Mr_KevinJones) April 30, 2017
The Eagles did not add any linebackers to their stable during free agency. In the draft, they added a college safety in Nathan Gerry that they intend on converting to linebacker.
If indeed the Eagles do not hang onto Kendricks, they won't have much in the way of experience behind Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham. Najee Goode and Kamu Grugier-Hill combined for three defensive snaps last season, while Joe Walker and Gerry have never stepped on an NFL football field for a regular season game.
Yikes. The Eagles made the obvious decisions to release Leodis McKelvin and let Nolan Carroll walk in free agency, and while they drafted corners in both the second and third rounds of the draft, they still sorely lack starters and depth in 2017.
The team used a major resource in the 43rd-overall pick on Jones, who may not play at all in 2017, though that's not out of the question. Still, his value will likely come in 2018 and beyond.
Rasul Douglas was drafted in the third round, and while he'll have the opportunity to compete for playing time (and maybe even a starting role), it is way too premature to project that.
Otherwise, Jalen Mills will return in 2017, this time as the team's likely No. 1 corner a year after being drafted in the seventh round, while free agent Patrick Robinson will probably start opposite him if the season began today.
And then there's Ron Brooks, Dwayne Gratz, C.J. Smith, Aaron Grymes, and Mitchell White.
Clearly, the Eagles still have a lot of work to do at corner, and while they have set themselves up to be better in 2018, it could be another rough year at the corner spot in 2017.
The Eagles have one of the best starting safety duos in the NFL in Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, but as we saw last year, they struggled when Jaylen Watkins had to step in and play when Jenkins moved down into the slot. Their depth remains questionable, at best, heading into 2017.
The Eagles have a number of quality starters at all three level of their defense, but on the whole, they have an alarming lack of depth.
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